China’s FM warns Philippine counterpart to ‘act with caution’ over South China Sea

Beijing, Dec 21 (EFE).- China’s Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi has urged his Philippine counterpart Enrique Manalo to “act with caution” and return Manila’s South China Sea policy “to the right path.”

Wang said in a phone call with Manalo that “current China-Philippines relations are facing serious difficulties” because the island country “changed its policy stance so far, reneged on its commitments, continued to provoke and cause trouble at sea, and undermined China’s legitimate and legitimate rights,” the Chinese foreign ministry wrote in a statement late Wednesday.

The foreign minister added that bilateral relations “are at a crossroads” and that the Philippines “must act with caution.”

Wang advised the Philippines “not to go in the wrong direction, but to return to the right path as soon as possible” while recalling that Beijing and Manila “are neighbors separated by a strip of water, and existing disputes should be resolved through consultation.”

“However, if the Philippines misjudges the situation, insists on going its own way, or even colludes with malicious external forces to continue causing trouble and chaos, China will definitely safeguard its rights in accordance with the law and respond resolutely,” the Chinese diplomat warned.

For his part, Manalo expressed his desire to “manage differences in a way acceptable to both sides, promote the de-escalation of tensions and prevent conflicts,” according to the Chinese ministry.

The two sides agreed to hold a meeting of the bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea as soon as possible.

In recent weeks, there have been altercations between China and the Philippines in these waters, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety and where it disputes, in addition to the Philippine archipelago, territories with Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei.

On Dec. 10, the Philippines accused the Chinese coast guard of firing a water cannon and ramming its replenishment vessels near Ayungin Shoal (known as Ren’ai Reef in China), causing severe engine damage to one of the ships.

According to Beijing, the operations of its coast guard during the incident were “legitimate and professional” and denounced that four Philippine vessels “tried to send building materials to its illegally grounded warship… seriously violating China’s sovereignty.”

The Asian giant alleges historical reasons for claiming sovereignty in these waters, but in 2016 The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration sided with Manila in its complaint against the territorial claims of the Chinese authorities, a decision that the Asian power has refused to abide by. EFE


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